Huge. Heated. Angry. Unyielding. We’re not talking about the nation’s current political climate, but rather a set of comments on the subject of lying to landlords about having cats. In a CatHouse Confessional from Oct. 2 ("My Apartment Allows Only One Cat, But I Have Three — Hah!") Sara Cress describes what she had to do in a rather desperate situation in order to find a rental on short notice. As of Wednesday afternoon, the story had 166 comments — and almost 10,000 words, which most writers would consider well on the way to finishing a novel.
Cat owners screamed, "It’s not fair!" Landlords screamed back, "It’s my property! Buy your own!" Some cat owners were calm, while others scolded liars for putting their pets at risk. Still others offered tips to make the lies work better.
Disclaimer: What follows is a rather random sample of what has transpired in the comments. If you’d like to read the whole novel — er, set of comments — you’re sure to find more interesting (and probably entertaining) things.
Things started out level-headed. Some people reported having sympathetic landlords, including Lauren Mendoza.
"I’ve lied my whole life about having cats," Mendoza wrote. "Every apartment that I’ve rented (three) only allowed two cats, and I always had four to six cats — it just never seems to be home without so many. Anyway, when I rented my current residence — a house — with my hubby, we had eight. They had no policy and asked how many cats we had. So I said four. And they didn’t care! I don’t even think they’d care if I said eight. After I said I had four cats, she said, ‘You could have a couple of dogs, too … the previous owners had three dogs, I think.’ I hate lying about these things, but people don’t understand what happens when you find strays or kittens that cannot be homed due to issues — until you find that one landlord who’s been there. I’m absolutely grateful for my current landlords. They are amazing people — and they let us do our thing, because it is OUR house now. "
The first landlord to comment was Dawn Anastasi.
"I have two cats myself, and I allow pets in our rentals," she wrote. "Strangely enough, although I allow pets, and that seems to be rare, all of my rentals but one are occupied by non-pet owners. Those are the only ones who seem to apply. Honestly, the reason why most places don’t accept pets is the horror stories about cats and dogs urinating and defecating inside, and how that ruins things. From what I’ve seen, children actually cause more damage than pets do. (Coloring on the walls, breaking things, and so on.) "
The next landlord to comment, though, was damning, to say the least.
Using the handle "the landlady," she wrote:
"Cat smells and cat sprays are the most difficult to remove from the rental once you all have vacated. I can and do easily repaint from coloring on walls, broken fixtures or doors. Cat folks live with the feline smells and think nothing of it. We smell it on your clothes. We smell it in your homes and we smell it in our empty rentals when you leave. Not to mention the flea issues I’ve had to deal with year after year. I’ve had to replace whole home and apartment unit carpeting more than once. Males and females spray, and that disgusting smell doesn’t leave when you do.
"Lying about having only ONE cat is fraud. Have a dozen if you like. But enjoy them in YOUR OWN home — not one of my rentals, please. It’s lies like, “only one cat” that has made me change my policy to NO ANIMALS AT ALL. And I do evict for lying on a rental application and sue you for actual and mitigated damages resulting in your application lies. You can be responsible for up to three months’ rent after you leave, while I remove the stench and re-rent the apartment/house. Loss of your deposit is also a good reason to tell the truth. And let’s not forget your legal expenses at $175 per hour — the court will see that you pay your lawyer AND mine.
Eviction is expensive, and you will pay every single cost involved — and have to move whenever your landlord discovers your cats. And why wouldn’t you rent from a landlord that allows unlimited pets? The deposits are astronomical if you can even find one — or the landlord doesn’t care and the rental is trashed — for that very reason: Too many cats or dogs once lived there. I’ve been a landlord for 20 years — NEVER have I seen children do near the damage pets do. Lying on your rental app is not good advice. No matter what these folks are telling you. Want a dozen cats? Buy your own home. "
A reader named Grace lived up to her name in her comment:
" It all depends on the person who owns the cat. I have had two apartments, one that allowed cats and another that didn’t. I had two cats in both. I was on very good terms with both landlords, and when we left and did our final inspection they both gave me praises for leaving the apartment immaculate. It is really hard to find places to accept two cats without the landlord charging hundreds of extra dollars to have them. I would rather have my landlord allow pets and then inspect my apartment every so often. I am not scared of what my pets will do because I clean!"
Reader tjmuse started a discussion about cats who spray:
"First of all cats that are FIXED do not spray like unfixed cats do. I hate the smell of dirty litter boxes and I don’t want that smell in my house. All four of my cats are fixed. I have four litter boxes and they are all cleaned every day. I have a daughter that has six kids and I can tell you the kind of damage that kids can do. I have no clue who you are fooling with the lies you are saying about people having pets."
A reader named Candy Murray also defended pet owners from negative stereotypes:
" I am a cat owner and I agree with some of what you say. But there are owners that are responsible and take care of their homes and their pets. I will not tolerate an animal defecating or spraying in the house. My pets are neutered and spayed. And that is one of the things that cause a large problem. Some people are just plain lazy. It is a shame that you have had bad experiences. I can understand why you changed your policy. But you can come to my home any time you want and with the exception of a couple of cat toys you would not know I have cats. "
A reader called Amy said to the landlady, " You probably shouldn’t be visiting animal websites if you hate them that much. Some landladies are intolerable people, others are quite pleasant. Same goes for many pet behaviors and the people that care for them."
Bobbi Adams turned up the heat.
"To lie is bad, but you’re not going to change a cat lover’s mind when they have had their cats from birth to 18 years," Adams wrote. "You’re going to tell me you would say to a person who has two well-behaved senior cats that they can no longer keep them? You’re just mean. Because one person had a cat and did not have it neutered and it sprayed, you’re going to punish the rest of the responsible pet owners. If they had enough money to own a house they would, but unfortunately not everyone has that kind of money.
"My landlord did not accept pets either but it was the only rental I could find, so I took my two cats with me on the interview and once he saw how well behaved they were he accepted them. My cats did not pee on the walls or carpets (AS MOST DON’T) and I got my pet deposit back. Landlords should rent to seniors that have an 18-year-old cat, but instead they have to get rid of their 18-year-old cat to a Humane Society, and those elders are frowned upon by the shelter staff, then the person is left with heartbreak, feelings of betrayal to their cat. And remember that cat has been with them for 10 years or more, and the rental market is get what you can on a limited income! "
Some readers, however, said they had no trouble finding places to rent that accepted pets. One was a reader named Heather, who also had some advice for renters:
" I rented various apartments over a period of 20 years before I bought my own place. In all of the rentals, I had at least one cat, usually two. I have never been refused as a tenant, I have always received my security deposit upon leaving, have always received a good reference for future landlords, and have never left anywhere that wasn’t in better condition when I left than when I moved in. My cats are trained to use a litter box. In fact, if they are outside they will come home, use the litter box, and then go back outside. In this way they don’t foul the garden area. I have now bought my own home, a condo, and we are restricted to two pets.
"To the landlords, it’s not the pet it is the owner. If someone has pets (I’m not saying nine cats in an apartment is reasonable, but certainly two is) GET REFERENCES from a previous landlord. "
A reader named Charlotte Grubbs had no patience for any lying cat owners in her comments:
She wrote, "1) It’s not difficult to find a place to live which allows more than one cat. Really, it’s not. You just have to look.
"2) You are being irresponsible by putting you and your kitties at risk of being evicted. It happens, and when it happens both you and your kitties can be left homeless. I used to volunteer at an animal rescue, and more than once people have brought in their pets because they lost their homes or their apartment and could no longer keep their pets. In those cases, the cats lost because of their owners’ irresponsibility.
"3) Some bloggers here were evicted due to lying about their cats – and then found new homes by lying about their cats? By repeating the same mistake that got them kicked out before? How on Earth is that an acceptable solution? What happens when they kicked out yet again?
"There are tens of thousands of pets that that end up in shelters and are euthanized every year because their owners were irresponsible and did not secure permanent housing for them.
"THOSE people do not deserve cats.
"Which do you think my cats appreciate more? My willingness to sacrifice everything for them? Or my ability to put a roof over their heads and food in their mouths? I know my cats love me and are devoted to me – and I repay that love and devotion by being a responsible pet owner."
On the other side was reader Kayla L, who offered the following tips for people allowed one cat but who really have more:
"Keep your cats current on their vaccinations even if they are strictly indoors because you never know when you’re going to have to board them if you can’t find ‘Uncle David’ for another sleepover.
"Be creative when describing your cat on your lease. Using terms like ‘Merle’ or ‘Scottish’ will leave you wiggle room if one of the cats manages to find their way into the window when the office is making rounds along the property.
"Be sure to tell your kids that you only have ONE CAT and which one is the default to refer to if you have to tell a story to the neighbors.
"If you have a maintenance call, don’t leave three in the bedroom and 1 out. You don’t want to be found out when there are vocalizations and paws coming out from under the door asking what’s going on and why is the other cat out there playing around. All of them go in the same room.
"It’s tiresome, but I love my cats and we keep a clean home."